Let this democracy prosper!

President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu said, and the nation prays, that come next year, he will hand over a better country, agriculture-led, diversified economy, stable democracy and revamped armed and security forces, to the next administration.

Speaking at a dinner in honour of the 2022 Committee of Business, Political, Media and Civil Society Leaders, the President said he was looking forward to completing his tenure in 2023, leaving a legacy for a united, peaceful, and prosperous Nigeria with 24 years of uninterrupted democracy.

Interestingly, in spite of the ongoing crises bedevilling Nigeria, the President said his administration will finish strongly and successfully.
”I am gradually entering my final year in office. It is a period I intend to spend not only on consolidating on the achievements of the past seven years but also to leave a legacy for a united, peaceful and prosperous Nigeria,” he said. “I take this initiative to mean that you all intend to collaborate with this administration in that direction.”

And, yes, we, the citizens, all need to collaborate with this administration to make the country better. Citizen participation means that every one of us, even our children, can get involved in doing something that will make the living conditions better for all of us.

Though it appears that few people know this, the truth is, in a democracy the power to change things is actually more with the people, and less with the leaders. Nations, throughout the world, are guided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which emphasises that “the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government.”

Thankfully, today, in Nigeria we are reminded by the President that true democracy relies on a continuous and well-functioning dialogue between the people and governing structures.
However, the President needs to go further and encourage policy-makers in his administration to engage fully with citizens and civil society to shape policies that respond to the needs of the people, particularly those in the margins of society. He, also, should continue to encourage citizens to exercise their right to a voice, to articulate their needs. He should, likewise, encourage Nigerians to hold decision-makers accountable for their actions and or inactions.
The media and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) are a vehicle through which citizens can aggregate their interests, voice their preferences and exercise the power necessary to effect sustained change.

However, this requires the media and the CSOs to learn to work together and to play a variety of complementary political roles that include acting as watchdogs; advocates; mobilisers; educators; researchers; infomediaries and policy analysts.

No doubt, it is heart-warming that the President is acting as a reminder to especially the government he leads to respect citizen’s right to meaningful political participation. In a peaceful society, there is a strong link between institutions and the citizens. Inclusion and accountability stand paramount to any other objective.

Dialogue between institutions and citizens must serve as a substantial influence on good governance, for now, and for years to come.
Thus, it is not enough to work only on setting up democratic institutions and processes. These institutions and processes must be put to work to create opportunities for citizens to lead healthy and productive lives. Of course, ensuring that government actually works for the public good requires informed, organised, active and peaceful citizen participation.

Citizens must, therefore, understand ideas about citizenship, politics and government. They need the knowledge to make decisions about policy choices and the proper use of authority, along with the skills to voice their concerns, act collectively and hold public officials – elected representatives, civil servants, and appointed leaders – accountable.

These are the ideas the President always hold dear and loves to propagate and, if he succeeds in doing so, Nigeria and Nigerians will be better and democracy will be strengthened.

Why Buhari should honour pact with ASUU

The debate over which party, between the federal government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), actually is faithful to the 2009 agreement appears to be a controversial and unending one.

This week, President Muhammadu Buhari said that the federal government remains committed to honouring promises made to the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to prevent disruptive strikes, engender uninterrupted academic programmes and improve funding of educational institutions.

The President said this in Abuja while receiving members of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) led by the Co-Chairs, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, and the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Reverend Samson Olasupo Ayokunle.
Commending the leadership of NIREC for intervening in the year-long strike staged by ASUU through holding consultations with the parties, the President said “no society which wishes itself well neglects its educational system and all its component parts.”

Without any doubt, the President is right here. In fact, the situation could not have been worse for Nigeria than now, when the major indicators of quality university education appear to be at their lowest levels, leading to the production of poor quality graduates.

Nigerian universities, despite the richness of the country, lack adequate and regular funding to pay staff salaries, fund research and provide cutting-edge facilities for teaching and learning. The states of teaching, learning and research in Nigerian public universities, to say the least, leave much to be desired.

Education is the learning process through which knowledge, skills, beliefs are acquired and put to good use for self-development and the development of all the sectors of the economy in a country.
Education, of course, must be seen as a process, without an end, that brings about innovations, new ideas, enlightenment and facts that would aid a country’s growth, productivity and development.

It should be seen as a fruit-bearing tree that is productive and sustainable for the development of a country’s economy. Nigeria, as a nation, regrettably, is experiencing economic, political, moral and social problems because of the failure of its previous leaders to prioritise education and ensure that issues leading to incessant strikes in the universities were addressed.

Of particular note, in this regard, is the failure of the leaders to show commitment to the task of implementing the 2009 agreement between the federal government and ASUU. Agreed, meetings between the parties have taken place and strikes were staged and what can be described as partial agreements were reached during meetings aimed at forestalling and or suspending strikes.

Yet, if these questions must be asked, and they need be, why are the meetings scheduled only when there is a threat of ASUU strike in the air or when the government needs to get the ASUU members to suspend their strike?
Therefore, it is high time for the federal government and ASUU to sit and properly address problems of education in the country. The parties should understand that education is the mainstay of a country’s economy and political stability.

At a time when countries in the Americas, Europe and Asia are paying more attention to university education through infrastructure development, digital learning management systems, targeted funding, breakthrough research and faculty and student exchange programmes, the leaders in this part of the world must not be seen squabbling over political positions, with its elite being consumed in a power struggle and primitive accumulation, while only paying lip service to the issue of education.

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